Voice Recognition (Speech to Text Software)


an image of a earphone and microphone headsetVoice recognition software (also known as speech to text software) allows an individual to use their voice instead of typing on a keyboard. Voice recognition may be used to dictate text into the computer or to give commands to the computer (such as opening application programs, pulling down menus, or saving work). Voice recognition software allows for a quick method of writing onto a computer. It is also useful for people with disabilities who find it difficult to use the keyboard. This software can also assist those who have difficulty with transferring ideas onto paper as it helps take the focus out of the mechanics of writing (e.g., spelling, sentence structure, etc.). Not all speech recognition software packages are equal in function, capability, or ease of use.

Older voice recognition applications require each word to be separated by a distinct space (i.e., briefly pausing between each word). This allows the software to determine where one word begins and the next stops. This style of dictation is called discrete speech. Few people prefer these systems to the newer continuous speech model. It is hard to find discrete speech recognition software due to advancements in continuous speech recognition software. Continuous speech voice recognition applications allow a user to dictate text fluently into the computer. These new applications can recognize speech at up to 160 words per minute.

All speech recognition software requires a sound card and microphone; manufacturers recommend specific brands and models that have been tested. The microphone captures the user's speech and the sound card converts the speech into a digital form that the software can interpret. This digital representation is compared to a profile of the user's speech. The software creates this profile by having the user initially go through a training exercise in which they are asked to speak specific sentences and words. By comparing spoken words with the user profile, the software determines which words the user probably spoke. The software also uses a general user profile (based on speech from many people) and grammar rules and relationships between words to improve recognition. While the accuracy of voice recognition has improved over the past few years some users still experience problems with accuracy either because of the way they speak or the nature of their voice.

Digital voice recorders are frequently used with voice recognition software. These allow the user to dictate text into the voice recorder which can be translated at a later date by a voice recognition system.

Want to learn more about speech to text software? Ottawa Network for Education created videos for students who are interested in learning about or starting to use technologies for reading, writing and other school work. To learn more about speech to text software, visit Ottawa Network for Education's website to watch a video titled ‘AT Tools for Writing’ and 'Tools for Writing and Editing.'

Points to Ponder

Questions to consider when choosing Voice Recognition Software

  • Is it compatible with your computer's platform?
  • What languages does it support?
  • What is the learning curve of the software?
  • Does it integrate with existing applications, e.g., word, excel?
  • Does it ship with its own microphone?
  • Does it have macro compatibility (that is, can you program simple commands that can be used to execute more complicated series of operations)?
  • How fast is it?
  • Do you need a remote model?
  • Will you need a USB microphone (since it comes with its own sound card)?
  • Does it allow for transcription from digital tape recorders?
  • Does it allow for wireless dictation, i.e., Bluetooth compatible?
  • Does it allow you to import/export word lists and user profiles?
  • Does it allow for transcription from a digital voice recorder? Consider choosing a model compatible with the voice recognition software.



Manufacturers of Voice Recognition Software (Windows)

SNOW does not endorse any of the following software/hardware. These links are provided for information purposes only.

Nuance  – Dragon Naturally Speaking - Home, Premium, Professional and Legal versions
goQSoftware. – SpeakQ (requires WordQ)

Manufacturers of Voice Recognition Software (Mac)

Nuance - Dragon Dictate, MacSpeech Dictate Medical, Legal and International versions

Did you know? That your computer may have free built-in speech recognition software available.  Learn more about the accessibility features of your computer here.

Software Programs that use Voice Recognition Technology

iCommunicator – uses voice recognition technology to convert spoken language into sign language for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Metroplex Voice Computing, Inc. – has developed hands/mouse free software which utilizes voice recognition technology to dictate math.
Trigram Technology – has developed software to be used with voice recognition technology including Language Models that assist those using medical terminology during dictation. This software helps to increase accuracy rates


Free/Open Source Software

Perlbox (Linux)

Additional Useful Links

Say I Can – provides tips and instructional videos for using voice recognition software